Crispy Gamer

Stop Complaining! A defense of the traditional A-F (60-100) game review scale.

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I'm fairly sick of people criticizing the traditional A-F, "60-100" point (or 6-10 point) scale used by most video game review sites and magazines.

The scale is adopted from the A-F grading scale in the American education system.  The idea is that if you take a test worth 100 points, and you only score 70 points, then your performance was subpar, and you get a C.  80 points, you get a B, and 90+ points, you get an A.  I keep hearing game editors and reviewers spouting about how we need to use the full spectrum of the 100 point scale.  They proclaim that a 60 or 70 should be a reasonable score, and even a "40" can mean a game is bad, but not atrocious.  Marc Doyle, Metacritic’s Games Editor, notoriously stated "I feel that ANY scale simply needs to be converted directly with its lowest possible grade equating to 0, and the highest to 100."  This would mean a “B” grade would equate to approximately a 66/100!  What are you thinking, Marc?!

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Metacritic: Conflating and confusing review scores since 2001.

This is fundamentally flawed, because it neglects to understand the origins of the scale.  The reason we usually only use 60-100 is because anything below 70 is, in academic culture, a FAILING grade.  As in, "stay away, this game only scored 60 points out of 100, and isn't worth your time."  To score lower than 60, that's like a student not even showing up for the test, or in game terms, the game not even being finished (granted, some games seem to be shipped in this condition anyway). 

Metascores

If everyone on Earth suddenly started using this scale, the world would explode.

A score of 70 should be the quality equivalent of a "C", meaning it's mediocre; not terrible, but certainly not very good.  A "B" is a good game that many people will enjoy, but isn't a homerun.  An "A" means the game hit all the right notes, is well made and fun, and is worth playing to anyone interested in the genre.  A 95+ means it's a grand slam (I guess the metaphor has switched to baseball now), and anyone interested in video games should check it out, because the developers really know how to "ace" their test, i.e. make a f***ing great game. 

Think about it: what would happen if you went to school one day and the teacher decided that scoring 50 out of 100 was a passing grade?  How simultaneously awesome and idiotic would that be?

There is only one right way to fail, and this is it.

I never understood why this grading scale was so hard for people to comprehend.   Yeah, there are 100 points possible, but why reinvent the wheel and try to subvert the entire national/global mindset about what it means to get a certain number score?  Number scores out of 100 always correspond in our heads to a letter grade, so what's wrong with giving a lousy game an "F" or a "D", and rating all games that aren't downright abysmal a "C" or above?  Yeah, a score of "100" should be rare, but it doesn't seem that unreasonable to grant A's and B's - that should be a sign of a successful game, not a rarity in the industry.

Comments

I disagree with poilbrun. I don't think the 100 point scale is necessary at all. Does it really matter whether the game got a 59% or 0%? Both scores mean the same thing; don't play this game. Reviewers gear their reviews towards gamers, reccomending whether they should play the game or not. That's the purpose of a review, not to say which game is better, but to say which game is worth your troubles. It doesn't matter if one game got a 46% and another got a 49%. Yes, the game that got a 49% may be seen as slightly better in the eyes of the reviewer, but he still isn't reccomending that game to the gamers. Why not have both of those games receive Fs? Although one is better than the other, neither is worth your time.

And even if you really want to know which of the two games not worth your time is better, keep in mind that there is a written review accomodating the score. You can't always take the score given at face value, even on your precious 100 point scale. You have to read the review, and based on the review, you can judge whether the game is for you or not. For example, let's say the sequel to your favorite game receives a 68%. However, if you read the review, it may say something along the lines of "the single player mode is pretty good, but a shallow multiplayer mode coupled with weak graphics brings this game down". If you don't care about the multiplayer mode, if you're indifferent about graphics, and if you really want to play the single player mode to see what happens to the protagonist next, you shouldn't hesitate to buy it because it received a 68%. Now, let's talk about the base 13 letter scale that you criticized. If you really care whether a game received a 59% or a 0% (which you shouldn't), you will be able to tell by the written review whether the game was closer to a 59% or a 0%. One reviewer says of Game A "I really wanted to like this game, but it just made a few costly mistakes that brought the package down. I'm optimistic about the already announced sequel though, because it they fix the mistakes, the game could be very good". The same reviewer said of Game B "This game was an atrocity. I'd rather watch paint dry than play this game. I don't know what the developers were thinking, as this may be the worst game I ever played." Guess which game is closer to the 59%. You get the idea.   

OK, so you say that because the system used for review is the same system as the one used in your school, it makes sense to keep it. OK, I understand that. Since readers are used to the system, let's keep using it.

But then, you go on to defend the school system in itself, and then you stop making sense. "why reinvent the wheel and try to subvert the entire national/global mindset about what it means to get a certain number score?" Here we go with the "I'm American and the whole world is like the US" argument. First of all, it's not. And even if it was, that does not mean all your systems in place are the best or most logical in the world (a lot are, for sure, but that's beside the point). By using "F" as the single score for below 60% in school, you're basically saying that a kid who get 59 questions out of 100 is as bad as one who got 0. This can make a lot of difference: if my son gets 59%, I should put him through remediation. If he gets 0%, I know there's something else going on, just blind luck should ensure that he gets some points.

In the movie or game critics environment, a numerical system is also easier to use than the grade system. Grade a movie on 5 criteria each scored out of 20 (just an example: acting, realization, music & sound effects, visuals & special effects, story) add them up and you get a percentage rating. How would you do that with you A to F system?

Furthermore, an extended scale would enable extra granularity in the reviews. The grade system is basically a numerical system on base 13 (A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-, F), and it is especially difficult to differentiate between "bad" grades. Going back to the movie reviews system I outlined above, you could in theory get a movie with very bad music and visual, but great acting, realization and story. Yet, that movie could rate as an F, the same a a movie that would be terrible in 5 criteria or one average in all...

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